A win is a win, but when the Texas Longhorns (4-1, 2-0) watch the film from Saturday’s 19-14 road victory over the Kansas State Wildcats (2-3, 0-2), the Horns will realize that they hurt themselves just about as significantly as the Wildcats.
More specifically, it was penalties that yet again plagued head coach Tom Herman’s team, and at times paved the way for Kansas State to remain in a contest it looked lost in early on.
When it was all said and done, Texas committed 10 penalties at the cost of 105 yards, which marks the most undisciplined day of the season for the Longhorns. Bearing in mind that Kansas State didn’t commit a single penalty throughout the entire contest — the one penalty that was flagged was offset by a Texas foul — the Longhorns have now committed more penalties than their opponent in four of five games this season, with the seven penalties for 46 yards against USC standing as the lone exception.
“We’ve obviously got to play the ball better,” Herman said after the game. “We’ve got to coach our guys how to play the ball better. We really do. Most of these penalties are aggressive penalties. Procedurally I thought we were good. It’s the in-play penalties that we’ve got to do a better job of coaching great technique.”
The Longhorns errors were evident throughout, beginning with the very first play of the game, as the Horns were flagged for holding during the opening kickoff.
After making some headway on the game-opening drive, which began at the Texas 12-yard line due to the aforementioned holding flag, an Andrew Beck block in the back play set Texas back for a 2nd and 20 on what would have been a 2nd and 7.
Three plays later, the Longhorns punted the ball away.
On Kansas State’s second series of the day, a Kris Boyd facemask penalty on Isaiah Zuber moved the chains on what would have been a 3rd and 9, and two plays later, Ta’Quon Graham was flagged for jumping offsides.
A few possessions later, in what proved to be the final scoring drive of the first half for Texas, an eight-yard scamper from Keaontay Ingram was called back due to an unnecessary roughness penalty on Zach Shackelford, which in turn, transformed a 2nd and 2 into a 1st and 17.
Davante Davis became the next culprit on the ensuing drive, as he was flagged for pass interference, and what would have been a 3rd and 6 became a 1st and 10 in Texas territory.
Moments later, on the first play of a drive that would ultimately end the half, an Alex Delton run that was good for nine yards was gifted with an additional 10 yards due to a defensive holding flag on Anthony Wheeler. K-State finished just two yards short of that final 18 yards it needed to cross pay dirt and put a touchdown on the board, but the first-half Texas discipline, or lack thereof, painted an unsavory picture.
At the break, Kansas State’s offense had amassed a mere 64 yards. Meanwhile, Texas had already racked up 80 penalty yards behind seven flags.
Nothing changed coming out of the locker room, at least initially.
After pitching a shutout in the first half, the Longhorns defense allowed the Wildcats to march down the field and find the end zone on Kansas State’s opening drive of the third quarter.
Penalties helped pave the way for those points.
As part of what ended as a difficult day for Boyd, the Longhorns senior cornerback was flagged for pass interference deep down field, which automatically moved the chains and put Kansas State at the Texas 34-yard line. Two plays later, what would have been an 2nd and 10 following an incomplete pass pass was instead a 1st and 5 from the Texas 17-yard line.
Four plays later, running back Alex Barnes found the end zone for the Wildcats’ first score.
Texas played fairly penalty-free from that point forward, aside from a lone error from true freshman running back Keaontay Ingram on a crucial third down on the final drive of the game. With Texas facing a 3rd and 6, Ingram budged to draw the flag for a false start, which dig the Horns hole a little deeper, although Sam Ehlinger found Collin Johnson for a 13-yard strike moments later.
All told, the penalty problems that plagued Texas entering the afternoon persisted.
Texas arrived in the Little Apple tied for 89th nationally after committed 29 penalties throughout its first four appearances. After 10 penalties for 104 yards, the Longhorns are on pace to slide even further towards the bottom of the college football penalties totem pole.
More notably, not only did Texas sacrifice more than the entire length of the football field behind its own errors, but because of those errors, Kansas State was able to add 60 yards of offense that it might not have been able to otherwise, which is a substantial portion of the 217 total yards gained by the Wildcats.
While the penalties didn’t push Texas to the loss column against Kansas State, or against Tulsa (eight for 65 yards), or TCU (four for 25 yards), the Horns are just days away from a Red River Showdown with arguably the best team on its schedule — Oklahoma.
It could go without saying that against an Oklahoma offense that’s averaging upwards of 500 yards per game, donating additional yardage and producing drive-killing penalties on the other end likely won’t the results required to leave the Cotton Bowl at 5-1.